Novel reactor design for enhanced removal of fluoride using a modified Nalgonda method

EPA Grant Number: SU836117
Title: Novel reactor design for enhanced removal of fluoride using a modified Nalgonda method
Investigators: Weber-Shirk, Monroe
Institution: Cornell University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Water


Fluoride contamination of groundwater is common and the methods for removing fluoride at the village scale are limited. The AguaClara program at Cornell University has a decade of experience improving the performance and economics of unit process that are suitable for widespread adoption by communities. Preliminary research on arsenic removal sponsored by EPA P3 provided evidence that arsenic can be removed by coagulant addition followed by sand filtration. These preliminary results have suggested that the AguaClara Research – Invent – Design – Engage (RIDE) approach could lead to substantially improved technologies for the removal of other common drinking water contaminants as well. Given the widespread fluoride contamination of groundwater the team has selected fluoride removal as a new research topic.

The challenge for fluoride removal is that the fluoride ion is very soluble and thus removal by sorption media, co­precipitation, or contact precipitation requires significant chemical feeds or frequent regeneration of sorption media. The AguaClara team will build on our expertise to conduct experiments to identify the rate limiting steps and then optimize the reactor design for more efficient fluoride removal.


AguaClara invents and improves ultra­low energy unit processes that are designed for sustainability and maintained by community members. This design for People with a focus on high performance and low cost creates designs that lead to prosperity and to care for the planet.

The proposed research will be conducted by students in Cornell University’s AguaClara program as part of our RIDE innovation system. Student teams collaborate with partner organizations to Research, Invent, and Design improved water treatment technologies and then to Engage with implementation partners to build the facilities and assist communities with their maintenance and operation. The student team consists of 70 students working on 18 different project teams. There are currently 10 municipalities in Honduras with AguaClara water treatment plants and another municipality will be starting operation of a new facility in the next few weeks. There are 2 villages in India that are currently testing AguaClara filtration and disinfection systems.

The motivation for this RIDE is to improve performance, reduce chemical demand, reduce operation and maintenance complexity and invent technologies that can be built to achieve fluoride removal using local materials and operated by members of the community.

Expected Results:

This project is at the very early stages where it is critical that the team explore a range of alternative solutions and compare economic and environmental costs as well as operation and maintenance challenges. The team will evaluate the available technologies for fluoride removal and then select the most promising technologies for rapid prototyping and design evolution. The result will be improved fluoride removal technologies that have lower operating costs and are easier to maintain. The designs for these new technologies will be published on the AguaClara design server ( Exit ).

Supplemental Keywords:

AguaClara, Sustainable drinking water treatment, flocculation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    Novel reactor design for enhanced removal of fluoride using a modified Nalgonda method  | 2017 Progress Report  | 2018 Progress Report  | Final Report